Sunday, 30 December 2018

Worst GM In The NHL

I was all set to write a preview piece on the Spengler Cup Final tomorrow between Team Canada and the surprising Kuopio KalPa team from the Finnish Elite League. I was set to talk about goaltending and where theses teams shine in bettering their opponents, but all that was stopped when the guy in the lede photo decided to get his value out of the last page on the monthly calendar today. In what can only be described as inexplicable moves, Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli dove back into the trade market today to improve his team.

If one isn't aware, the Oilers are currently without Andrej Sekera (achilles), Oscar Klefbom (hand) and Kris Russell (groin) as all are injured. That's enough to decimate any defensive unit, so Chiarelli decided to get creative to help solve his defensive woes. Remember, he's trying to improve his team in the short-term while some of these players recover from their injuries.

In a mid-afternoon move, Peter Chiarelli called up Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon in an effort to improve his blue line. While I'm sure names like Ekblad, Yandle, and Matheson were mentioned, the two men came to an agreement that sent Alex Petrovic from the Panthers to the Oilers for Chris Wideman and the higher of the two third-round picks that the Oilers own in 2019. Petrovic arrives in Edmonton with a single assist in 26 games while Wideman had two helpers in five games with the Oilers following his acquisition from the Senators where he tallied two goals and three assists in 19 games.

Again, the Oilers are looking to improve here. Keep that in your mind after reading this next decision.

Chiarelli, not done there, decided to give Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman a call next. Again, Chiarelli likely tossed out names Forsling, Murphy, and Jokiharju as the discussions went along, but he and Bowman finally settled on a deal that sent winger Drake Caggiula and defenceman Jason Garrison from the Oilers to the Blackhawks in exchange for defenceman Brandon Manning and defenceman prospect Robin Norell. Norell is currently playing for Djurgårdens IF of the Swedish Hockey League where he has three assists in 28 games. Just so we're clear, the Oilers sent eight goals and four assists to the Blackhawks for one goal and two assists.

If Brandon Manning sounds familiar when it comes to the Oilers, it probably should since he was the guy who was responsible for Connor McDavid breaking his collarbone in 2016 which basically derailed the Oilers' season that year. What makes this deal hard to believe is that McDavid stated on December 8, 2016 that Manning had all but admitted that he tried to injure McDavid on purpose. He said,
"I did all I could defending him last year in the media," McDavid said after Edmonton's 6-5 loss to Philadelphia at Wells Fargo Center. "Everyone wanted to make a big deal saying he did it on purpose, and he wanted to say some comments today about what went on last year. I thought it was one of the [most] classless things I've ever seen on the ice. He said some things, and our guys responded accordingly. I guess we can put the whole 'if he did it on purpose' thing to rest because what he said out there kind of confirmed that."
And now Manning and McDavid are teammates because Peter Chiarelli needed to make a deal to acquire a bottom-pairing defender in exchange for one of McDavid's best friends on the team in Caggiula. What makes this entirely worse is that the major media outlets in Edmonton are out there protecting Chiarelli on this one when they should be eviscerating him.
Does anyone here think that Cam Neely and Ulf Samuelsson laughed off the knee that Samuelsson delivered that basically ended Neely's career? Does anyone here think that Marc Savard laughed off the vicious check he received from Matt Cooke that ended his career? Does anyone actually believe that Steve Moore and Todd Bertuzzi will ever laugh about the time Bertuzzi ended his career?

McDavid's career, thankfully, is not over, but when a guy hints at the fact that he tried to intentionally injure you, I'm pretty sure that getting one's blessing for a trade is more about MacDavid wanting to improve the team and less about any sort of forgiveness for the guy who tripped McDavid into the boards where he broke his collarbone. Seriously, what are you thinking when writing that, Rishaug?

Had the Oilers stopped at Petrovic, I could stomach that deal. Yes, they gave up a third-round pick they probably could have used on a defender in order to add some size and toughness to the blue line in a few years. Wideman wasn't going to set the world on fire in Edmonton by any means, but he was a serviceable defenceman with a touch more offence that Petrovic will bring. Ken Hitchock likes having a couple of defenders who can go out and play the heavy game, and Petrovic fits that mold without having to wait those years for a defender to develop in the "what have you done for me lately" NHL.

However, it's unfathomable that the Oilers traded a solid winger in Caggiula with a player who likely would have been placed on waivers in Garrison for a guy who has been spending time in the press box in Manning and a guy who likely will never play in the NHL in Norell. I keep seeing the rationale for these deals as Chiarelli paying a high price with GMs who won't throw him a lifeline, but isn't the reason they're in this situation because Chiarelli's asset management is some of the worst seen in the past decade of hockey?

If there's a bonus in all of this, the Oilers also announced they were recalling Joseph Gambardella, the leading scorer from the Bakersfield Condors, to fill in the roster spot opened through these deals. He was a solid player at UMass-Lowell and has looked good in his time with the Condors, but he'll really need to step up his game under the watch of Ken Hitchcock. If there's a guy who looks like he might be ready in the Oilers' system, Gambardella is the closest to being ready from what I've seen.

As for Peter Chiarelli, this is just another example of poor asset management when it comes to maximizing returns in any deals. He whiffed on the Larsson-for-Hall deal, he saddled Edmonton with Lucic's albatross contract, he signed Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins to deals they are repeatedly proving they aren't worth unless they play alongside McDavid, he traded Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome for Ryan Spooner which hasn't worked in any of its returns, he has Cam Talbot locked in as Edmonton's backup at $4.1 million, and since 2015 when he was hired the Oilers have made the playoffs just once.

Instead of getting McDavid's blessing on a deal, Chiarelli should be begging for forgiveness in wasting the prime years of one of the best players to ever suit up in the NHL. He has given McDavid just enough talent for McDavid to showcase his talents, but surrounded him with players who likely should be in the AHL at best. The depth scoring and the blue line are often missing in action while McDavid has to be otherworldly for this team to even be competitive most nights. And that's simply not realistic or fair to McDavid.

Based on his last three seasons of work, it would be hard to find anyone else in the NHL with Peter Chiarelli's resume who has done a worse job in constructing a team. He may just be the worst GM in the NHL.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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